Lessons from Boromir

Boromir is a mortal from the kingdom of Gondor. He is the eldest son of Denethor, the Steward entrusted to keep the realm safe until the rightful king returns (Aragorn). Because of this, a natural rivalry exists between them within the Fellowship. Other than a sweet and compassionate nature, Boromir is best known for his inability to resist temptation. He gives in to the Ring’s lure and tries to take it from Frodo, resulting in his eventual death. He redeems himself on the battlefield in a valiant attempt to rescue Merry and Pippin. Boromir may represent the good and evils of our own human nature.

Heeding dreams and visions.

Boromir has a unique reason to join the Fellowship. Frodo bears the Ring to Imladris, and chooses for the greater good of Middle earth to carry it the rest of the way. Unwilling to let him go on alone, Sam, Merry, and Pippin request to accompany him. As an Istari, Gandalf’s duty is to see this great evil destroyed. Aragorn has led the hobbits thus far. Legolas and Gimli step forward to represent the other races of Middle-earth. Boromir is the only one drawn to Imladris by a dream.

In scripture, dreams foreshadow God’s will. He used dreams to speak with His people. Joseph, Abraham, and many others received God’s will through visions. Interpreting dreams was important and esteemed. Even those who didn’t believe in the Hebrew God understood their significance; the pharaohs of Egypt and kings of secular nations all used dream interpreters. Boromir’s dream prophesied the “doom” of Middle-earth and led him to Imladris in search of answers. His dream was right… the hobbit had found Isildur’s Bane.

While Tolkien gives Middle-earth no religious belief systems, there is a distinct higher power at work in these events. A higher being created its races and sent Gandalf, Saruman, and the other wizards into the world to protect them against the dark lord. Fate governs all that happens. Gandalf often reminds Frodo he is meant to have the ring. He has an “extraordinary resilience to its power” (Elrond). Therefore we must conclude nothing is by accident… and it’s not. Without Sam eavesdropping, Frodo would have never made it to Mordor. Merry and Pippin joined for kicks, and played an enormous role in the last conflict. Without Gandalf, they would have died in Moria and the ring fallen into enemy hands.

Why was Boromir given this vision, this dream, this encouragement to be a part of the Fellowship… if he would die in pursuit of it? It seems unfair yet is scriptural. Compare Boromir to Judas, the man “destined” to betray Jesus. Like Boromir, Judas had a choice and he made a bad one. Judas could have changed his mind and refused the thirty silver pieces. But he didn’t. He gave in to temptation. He betrayed Christ… and died.

Do you see the similarities? Throughout the journey, Boromir struggles with himself. Will he betray them? Should he take the ring? These constant doubts plague his mind, besides the obvious mistrust of others… Aragorn, Gandalf, Frodo… even Galadriel foresees his treachery and warns him against it. Boromir gives in to his desire to secure an eminent power capable of saving his nation. He demands the Ring, and tries to take it. He breaks the solemn vow of protection and cleaves the Fellowship. But the Fellowship couldn’t have survived together. They would have never made it to Mordor. Each action has a purpose. Frodo and Sam had to go alone. They had to meet Gollum, whose actions determined the fate of the world. Aragorn had to be at Helm’s Deep, to protect the people of Rohan. Merry and Pippin had go on individual quests.

Which causes me to ask, was the dream a warning for Boromir not to go to Rivendell? Should Faramir have gone instead? We will never know. Boromir felt called to fulfill a destiny. He could have changed it, but he didn’t. A higher power ordained the sequence of events. He didn’t condemn Boromir to betrayal and death, but used his actions for greater good later.

We all have the power to change the course of our lives, to turn and go another way. God knows what decisions we will make; we cannot surprise Him. We must hope our choices will further His kingdom. That something good will come of our mistakes.

Foremost a warrior.

For all his attributes, the one word to describe Boromir is a “warrior.” He has long trained for this duty, proven himself worthy of the title of captain, and has a reputation throughout Middle-earth for his skill in battle. Boromir prepared himself for his destiny to accompany and protect the Fellowship without knowing it. As a child, he longed to live up to his namesake… the magnificent warrior spoken of in legend and folklore. He worked hard to become the finest swordsman in Gondor. The battlefield he fought on later was much larger than Gondor: it represented imperial power, the entire scope of Middle-earth from the gray, rancid stench of Mordor to the exquisite heights of Lórien.

Everyone has a desire to do something. Some people know quickly what it is and work at it, but others must search harder for it. I believe God never gives you a desire or talent without a reason. Whatever your heart is most fond of, the thing you feel gifted in, is your destiny. Use it for a greater purpose. Whatever your talent, God has plans for you. Never give up on your dreams.

A kind heart.

Boromir has a soft spot for the hobbits. At first, he ignores them altogether but by the mountain pass, he’s putting their interests ahead of his own. He thinks of them before his own comfort (“it’s not good for the hobbits“ to languish in the storm and the cold). The scene where he teaches Merry and Pippin how to duel is touching. Their adventure turns into a good-natured brawl and all are laughing by its conclusion. Though deemed “rough” in his quarrel with Frodo, Boromir gives up his life in defense of his halfling friends. In running to help and protect them, the arrow reached his heart. He still fought, redeeming himself as a hero.

We too often imagine captains as stern and cold, but Boromir has a tender side witnessed through many key scenes: his kinship with the hobbits, his vulnerability in Lothlórien, the fear and sorrow he expresses at death, and his willingness to call Aragorn “my captain, my king.” Boromir is a warrior, yes, but also a man of deep, profound loyalties and emotions. He tries to protect his brother from their father’s disappointment and abuse, and also wants to rally Aragorn to the support of Gondor. Where Aragorn has doubt, distrust, and scorn for mankind and their ‘weakness,’ Boromir reminds him that they have good traits also — kindness, goodness, feelings. He fears not these things, in a culture that might scorn him for having them, against a father who refuses to acknowledge them.

Emotions are what make us human. Tenderness is what proves the nature of our heart. Boromir is no less a warrior because of his sensitivity. If anything, it makes him even more relatable.

Sin begins in the heart.

The fate that cursed Boromir to his grave was his inability to resist temptation. The Ring called and he obeyed. For a time he struggled and fought this desire but then succumbed to it. Scripture tells us not to resist temptation, but avoid it altogether. If something tempts you, avoid similar situations. Knowing his desire to use the Ring, despite everyone’s advice against it, Boromir might have been wiser not to accompany the Fellowship. To heed his dream as a warning and not an invitation to use its power to protect Gondor. This would have prevented his constant exposure to the Ring, and his ability to think and mull over what he could do with it.

Jesus says that sin begins in the heart, that if you look upon a person in lust, you are an adulterer in your heart. He does not say this to condemn our thoughts (some of them, we cannot help) but to remind us that the indulgence of sinful thoughts can lead us to sin. Boromir thought so much about the Ring, he felt more and more drawn to it… until he wanted to possess it.

If he did not want to give up the Fellowship altogether, he could have achieved resistance by making certain he never went off alone when Frodo did. Keeping people around you helps you guard against temptation, since they’re in place to force you into honesty. We behave better around people who know our flaws and are willing to call us on them. This is a character-building situation. God never tempts us, but allows temptation to strengthen our character. If we’re never tempted, we’re always weak. No man lives a temptation-free life. Some are bigger than others, but each defines who we are through our reaction. Boromir failed in this respect; he gave up fighting, and it cost him his life.

It’s never too late to seek redemption.

As the warrior lies dying, he regrets his actions. Boromir regrets betraying his vow to protect the Ring, threatening Frodo and forcing him to run off alone. Boromir made many mistakes and repented of them. With repentance comes forgiveness. Most of us (I hope) don’t wait until our deathbed to acknowledge our faults and bemoan our failings. It doesn’t matter when you ask forgiveness as long as you mean it. God won’t hold them against you in the afterlife if you’re repentant. Aragorn grants Boromir peace in passing… the reassurance the people of Gondor will not perish, and a promise to see them strong again.

We all want reassurance that our life has meaning and our mistakes do not damn us. Boromir did nothing unforgivable. I believe even Frodo would have forgiven him. The important thing is to catch our failings before they go this far. Reassurance in death is still death.

We can learn a lot from this noble man of Gondor.

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